The Community Cloud Atlas – Building an Informed Cloud Watching Community

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Nick Guy, University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami, FL, United States; Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorology Studies, Norman, OK, United States and Angela Rowe, University of Washington Seattle Campus, Atmospheric Sciences, Seattle, WA, United States
The sky is dynamic, from long lasting cloud systems to ethereal, fleeting formations. After years of observing the sky and growing our personal collections of cloud photos, we decided to take to social media to share pictures, as well as build and educate a community of cloud enthusiasts. We began a Facebook page, the Community Cloud Atlas, described as “...the place to show off your pictures of the sky, identify clouds, and to discuss how specific cloud types form and what they can tell you about current and future weather.” Our main goal has been to encourage others to share their pictures, while we describe the scenes from a meteorological perspective and reach out to the general public to facilitate a deeper understanding of the sky. Nearly 16 months later, we have over 1400 “likes,” spanning 45 countries with ages ranging from 13 to over 65. We have a consistent stream of submissions; so many that we decided to start a corresponding blog to better organize the photos, provide more detailed explanations, and reach a bigger audience. Feedback from users has been positive in support of not only sharing cloud pictures, but also to “learn the science as well as admiring” the clouds. As one community member stated, “This is not ‘just' a place to share some lovely pictures.” We have attempted to blend our social media presence with providing an educational resource, and we are encouraged by the response we have received. Our Atlas has been informally implemented into classrooms, ranging from a 6th grade science class to Meteorology courses at universities. NOVA's recent Cloud Lab also made use of our Atlas as a supply of categorized pictures. Our ongoing goal is to not only continue to increase understanding and appreciation of the sky among the public, but to provide an increasingly useful tool for educators. We continue to explore different social media options to interact with the public and provide easier content submission, as well as software options for managing a growing database.